Tuesday, October 12, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: "The Spy Who Didn't" by Jack Laflin

See Steve Holland's ear?

I have pretty much accumulated every book Jack Laflin ever wrote without really trying. That's the way book collecting works sometimes. I found some a the local book pusher for cheap, others picked up in lots on eBay, and one in a truck stop. Not that it's a tall order he only wrote 10-ish novels. Belmont Tower pushed him in the late 60's with high-camp style covers that we obviously a cash-in for the "Batman" tv series. The covers are great and star everyone's favorite male model Steve Holland as the super-duper CIA agent Gregory Hiller. But what about what's under dem covers?

Gregory Hiller is a CIA agent, a Russian CIA agent. A defector turned "No. 1 troubleshooter," which is what I'm going to put on my business cards. Actually he came to America with a little plastic surgery (to look like Steve Holland, who wouldn't?) to impersonate a top man. But he found out he liked the good 'ol U.S. of A and switched sides. It's a nice, interesting backstory that sets him apart from the crowd of Bond-impersonators of the 60's paperback world. Well, so Old Greg is on vacation when he helps a old-man on the run and ends up in a insane asylum being tortured by a Nazi and a Nazi She-Devil. After an escape and a detour to Mexico Greg uncovers dastardly Nazi plots involving sunken Spanish gold, bombs, Man Mountains, the beautiful lady kind of Israeli agents, fights the Ku Klux Klan plus Nazi's in a giant cave AND kills a very notable bad-guy.

Laflin wrote a fun book. More than anything it reminded me of something out of an "Ace G-Man" pulp. Greg Hiller, despite his Russian origins, just screams AMERICA! He works with the FBI and local cops and just comes across less of a International Man of Mystery and more of a working stiff government man with a blazing walnut-stocked .357 Magnum. It makes you wonder what pulp magazines Laflin read a kid. All-in-all it's a romp of a novel, I'm sure Laflin's tongue was at least slightly in his cheek, so the pop-art covers actually fit the contents of the book. How's that for judging books by their covers? 

Laflin wrote the five book Gregory Hiller series, a YA book about football, a 70's horror/disaster novel about killer bees, finally a entry in the The Adjusters series (coincidently the only on that series published under the author's real name) and that was it. Except maybe a hardcover book in 1991 called "Serpent in Paradise" but I haven't figured out if it was the same Laflin. Fill me in if you know the unclassified truth! I'm going to try his Adjusters novel next to see if he molded himself in line for that series or just wrote a Greg Hiller book under a different guise. 

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